Be the Change

AntThe system is a pattern of interactions. To change the system is to change the way you interact.


The system is what it is. There is no part of it that is good or bad (1). Every part of it depends on every other part of it. One can change the system for the better but not by taking things away. We only change things for the better by adding new things, and then see if they fit in the system, and if they do there are more interactions and more choices for interaction. If we take things away then there are fewer interactions, fewer choices for interactions, and the system is more vulnerable with less flowing through it. If we try something new and it does not fit then we have more to learn but we will never learn unless we keep trying new things.


People rail against the system, demanding change from others, but what does that mean?

The human part of the system is made up from individual human choices. If we are truly egalitarian, everyone gets to make their own choices. People choose based on what they think is best for themselves, and their families, and their community. Try to take a choice away and people get defensive. Give people a better choice and, if they choose to, we change the system for the better . . . by adding new things.


No body said being the change was going to be easy.


It is just the first step to recognize what it means to be an integral part (2) of a single pattern of flows created by the choices of individuals (3). Even if you think you have no choice, it is up to you to decide how you will fit in the pattern. The more you know the better choice you can make. You cannot control the choices of anyone else but you can influence those choices. You influence the choices of others by figuring out better ways to fit, and demonstrating them. A better choice increases the complexity in the pattern of flows. They increase the number of choices. They increase the volume of flow.


Just remember that it is all one pattern.


The solar system is integral to the ecosystem is integral to the social system is integral to the economic system. To be concerned with only one part of the system is to be blind to all the interactions on which that part depends. How do you fit? How do you want to fit? Can you be that change?

1) - Assigning the label of good or bad to a thing, or a practice, is a philosophical issue. Often good or bad depends on your point of view. These conflicting philosophical views form the basis for the intractable problems our society faces.


2) - Every atom is the interaction between its electrons, protons and neutrons. Every molecule is the interaction between its atoms. Every cell is the interaction between its molecules. Every organ is the interaction between its cells. Every organism is the interaction between its organs. Every organization is the interaction between its organisms. Every society and its economy is the interaction between its organizations. And the whole system is all of these interactions. This understanding is Holism as science as opposed to Holism as philosophy. You are embedded in a set of nested holons. You depend on the interactions within the atoms, molecules, cells, and organs that are a part of you and you also depend on the interactions within the organizations, ecosystem, society, economy and solar system of which you are a part.


3) - The whole system, the system that includes everything, is a complex adaptive system. For our purposes think of it like an ant hill. Each ant gets up every morning and decides what task she will perform. Perhaps a particular ant decides to be a forager today. She comes to the surface and checks the strength of the various pheromone trails and chooses one to follow. At the end of the trail she might find food and carry some back, making that particular trail more enticing to other foragers. She might find the food is gone and take a random path home hoping to find another food source. The point is that there is no top down decision making. No one tells each ant what to do.


Most of us go through life much like the ant. We choose among the paths laid out by those who came before us. I suppose that it will always be so. But, if you want to change the system, learn how the system works, and figure out a new way to fit.

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  • David Braden IV, Executive Director, Living Systems Institute
  • (303) 549-9787

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